At exactly 6:10 A.M. yesterday at the Tisch Family Zoological Gardens in Jerusalem, the first Asiatic elephant to be conceived in Israel through artificial insemination was born.
The calf, which weighed 90 kilograms, is one of only 11 Asiatic elephants worldwide to be born using this method.
"There was drama, great excitement," Biblical Zoo director Shai Doron said in relating his night-long watch near the quarters of Tamar, 21, the happy mother.
Tamar was in labor for six hours. About four hours after it began, the birthing team, fearing complications, stopped the live Internet broadcast and took measures to hasten the birth.
After consulting with two veterinarians abroad and an Israeli gynecologist, zoo doctor Nili Avni-Magen decided to give Tamar a calcium injection, massage her body and tie her leg to accelerate the birth.
Two hours later, the calf took its first breaths. "In the first minutes, we warmed him and wrapped him in towels and sawdust," Doron related. "We very quickly handed him over to his mother, and a few hours later he was nursing on his own."
Concerns over the ability of Tamar, who was raised in captivity, to bond with her son proved groundless, but the calf still faces an uphill battle - about 40 percent of all elephant calves die in birth or within the first year.
Tamar was impregnated 21 months ago by Emmet, who lives in an English zoo. His sperm was flown to Israel on three separate flights, since it cannot be frozen.
The Biblical Zoo joined the project to preserve the Asiatic elephant, which faces extinction, several years ago. The zoo's next goal is to mate the still-adolescent elephant bull Teddy - named after Jerusalem's former mayor, Teddy Kollek - with elephant cows around the world, again through artificial insemination.
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